Jul 12, 2016 News
By Jarryl Bryan
Veteran Government Engineer Walter Willis, the technical mind involved in works like the Providence National Stadium and the now renamed Arthur Chung Convention Centre, passed away at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital last evening. He was 66.
Willis, who suffered a brief bout of illness, was rushed to the hospital on Saturday last, complaining of stomach pains. He was subsequently placed on life support, where he died surrounded by family.
Willis befuddled the nation and his workplace, the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, in his final hours. The Ministry yesterday released a statement announcing his death, only for it to be revealed that Willis still clung to life.
The statement, which was issued shortly after 13:00hrs, had announced “with the deepest regret”, the passing of Willis, Technical Advisor to Minister of Public Infrastructure David Patterson. It had stated that this came following a brief period of illness.
Sections of the media had also reported on his passing, with former Public Works Minister Robeson Benn reflecting on his time working with him. But after all the lamentations it was revealed that Willis was still alive.
According to his wife, Dolly Willis, it all started when the engineer, who was initially reluctant, was rushed to the Hospital suffering from severe chest pains. Doctors subsequently discovered that he had multiple ulcers in his stomach and were making attempts to flush the stomach.
Mrs. Willis related that up to Sunday her husband was able to converse but yesterday, at 10:00hrs the hospital called to inform her that Willis’ kidneys had collapsed, his vital signs were weakening and he had trouble breathing. She related that they were prepared to shut off life support.
Since his three children Christopher, Sonia, and Sandra were all overseas, a decision was taken to await their return. Kaieteur News understands that the veteran engineer subsequently registered a blood pressure and a pulse but very little brain activity up to the time he expired.
Mr. Willis was born on July 23, 1949. At one time he worked as a teacher at the then West Demerara Government Secondary. He received his qualifications in Hydraulic Engineering on a fellowship to study in Holland.
He was employed with his Ministry for 17 years. Upon his commencement of service on May 3, 1999, Mr. Willis served as the Technical Advisor for Minister of Transport and Hydraulics, Anthony Xavier, under the Ministry of Public Works and Communication.
Mr. Willis also served as Technical Advisor to Minister Harry Narine Nawbatt and Minister Robeson Benn before working alongside Minister David Patterson from May 2015, in the renamed Ministry of Public Infrastructure.
Outside his position as Technical Advisor, Mr. Willis held several positions, including that of the Chairman of the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority; Project Manager of the Solid Waste Management Programme; and Project Engineer for the Caribbean Development Bank Third Road Project (Ruimveldt to Providence).
Mr. Willis was also involved in a number of key developmental projects, including the construction of the Providence Stadium, where he served as the Project Manager. He also had experience developing Rice Mills and silos.
Up to last Friday, the day before he was admitted to the hospital, Mr. Willis led a team on a site visit to the Cheddi Jagan International Airport Expansion Project.
An example to follow
Commenting on his former advisor, Robeson Benn yesterday described Willis as “an example for all engineers and professionals to follow.” He said that Willis’ ability to integrate practical and technical applications in his work as a “great boon.”
“I can suggest to young engineers and professionals that he is a great example to follow,” Benn said. “The larger road projects, the airport expansion project, Amaila Falls- he did critical work there.”
Benn described this as just some of the work which Willis played a part in. He noted that the engineer gave critical advice for the construction of numerous roads, wharves and other infrastructure.
“He was always ready to come out, travel and get his hands dirty, any hour of the day or night,” Benn added. “His sudden passing is a great loss to his family and to the engineering fraternity.”
In its release, the Ministry of Public Infrastructure had also stated that “Mr. Willis will be remembered by all as a dedicated worker who went above and beyond to ensure the proper execution of all projects under his remit.
“He was always willing to offer advice and worked meticulously. He was also fondly known to all as a stickler for protocol and could be seen traversing even the hallways of the Ministry with a safety vest on.”
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